First West Nile Virus of the Season Found in Massachusetts Mosquito

It's that time of year again.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has announced that the town of Clinton is the unlucky winner of reporting the first mosquito carrying the West Nile Virus (WNV) of the season. Fortunately, there have not been any human cases of WNV or Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) detected so far this year. The DPH is not raising the risk level with this new finding, but is urging residents to take precautions.

“Today’s findings are a reminder of the importance of protecting ourselves and our families from the threat of mosquito-borne illness,” said DPH State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Catherine Brown in a statement. “Personal prevention consists of using mosquito repellents, wearing long loose clothing to reduce skin exposure, making sure screens are tightly fitting and dumping standing water. Because of the very warm weather and the periodic thunderstorms we’ve been having, dumping standing water is especially important.”

According to the DPH, there were eight human cases of WNV infection identified in the Commonwealth in 2013. Dr. Asim Ahmed from the Division of Infectious Diseases at Boston Children’s Hospital says that some of the early symptoms of both WNV and EEE can overlap with the flu, like fever, malaise, muscle aches, and sore throat. But patients with EEE will often develop other very severe symptoms in 2 to 3 days like seizures, altered mental status, confusion, coma, and even death. About 80 percent of people who get WNV will have what’s called a sub-clinical infection with very mild or even no symptoms, he says.

Below, tips from the DPH on how to protect yourself this summer.

Apply Insect Repellent when Outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), or oil of lemon eucalyptus. The DPH says that DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30 percent or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.

Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes.

Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites. Wearing long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.

Drain Standing Water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or discarding items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in birdbaths frequently.

Install or Repair Screens. In order to keep mosquitoes outside, be sure to have tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.

Protect Your Animals. Animal owners should reduce potential mosquito breeding sites on their property by eliminating standing water from containers such as buckets, tires, and wading pools. Horse owners should keep horses in indoor stalls at night to reduce their risk of exposure to mosquitoes. Owners should also speak with their veterinarian about mosquito repellents approved for use in animals and vaccinations to prevent WNV and EEE.